Japan, year one

haveaniceday.jpgYesterday, February 15th. It’s been exactly one year.
So, how has it been? I guess it’d be a time for a summary, but the first and foremost thought I have concerning this anniversary is weird. I know some people come to live in Japan for a year or even less, but if I was to go back ‘home’ in two weeks or something, I’d feel fooled. What? This was it? Living in the mythical country of geishas, samurais, anime girls and zen? This was the year that was supposed to transform me, the year after which I would talk about ‘when I was living in Japan…’ until the end of my days…
I guess, had there been less time, I’d concentrated more on experiencing the country – but then again, finishing a post-doc project in just one year.. uh, chotto…
Well, fortunately, I’m not moving back to Finland anytime soon – I’d really like to have at least a significant portion of my mortage paid before I dare to approach the uncertain positions in Finnish Academia. So, more time to observe and learn useless trivia about japanese chocolate.
Some things:
– I hate when a ticket-vending machine or ATM starts exclaiming “ALL FARE INFORMATION WILL BE GIVEN IN ENGLISH” or similar degradatory remarks; so much that I always try to use all machines in nihongo even though there was the gaijin option. The overly-polite announcements the machines utter seem to invoke a red arrow in the air, blinking, pointing at me and saying “here’s a moron!” (I am more or less confident that I will recognise a dangerous situation, eg. such that would result in my ATM card disappearing forever, and at least think that will be able to back up from such …)
– whenever I see some western ‘high’ culture on TV, no matter what I was doing, I need to stop, sit down, and soak it for a while – whether it was ballet, Russian modern opera or a piano concert, does not matter. This does not happen often, and in 10 minutes I seem to have acquired enough ‘culture’ to continue whatever I was doing. Weird. I do miss familiarity almost every day, even though most of the things I meet daily are very much familiar. And, oh, hitting upon an episode of ‘Friends’ or ‘Ally’ entertains much more than it ever did back home.
– I really dislike minna no nihongo – the book series used by governmentally approved language teachers (or something) to teach japanese, is awful. I just have finished the first book, and it is now useless; being completly in japanese and with no grammatical explanations whatever, it won’t work as a reference for anything learned earlier even though the system might cover the essential parts of basic japanese (which I am not sure about).
– I am not sure which is happening faster: my progress in japanese or my regress in english. Living in an environment where practically nobody speaks Really Good English gets on my nerves some times, especially when a certain someone in the office makes such mistakes as ‘many mouse’ and ‘I putted it into the fridge’ and such so often that I’ve noticed using such expressions myself…
– I don’t miss meat, even though I eat nowadays a fraction of what I used to of ‘whole meat’. My body might be missing it; I’ve started taking iron pills. Dunno if it helps. I don’t miss the weather in Finland most of the time, but indeed do miss the central heating and triple windows.
– I most definetly miss the good futons they sell at the Helsinki Futon Shop. I still can not believe it but I’ve not seen one single decent futon bedding being sold anywhere – I guess it’s just way too old-fashioned for anyone to want such a hard thing! The locals seem to greatly prefer tremendously thick ‘american beds’ or whatever the spring things are called. I hate them, just impossible to air such monsters, but the alternative at its best is usually just a foam mattress.
– back home, cooking rice instead of potatoes was considered the ‘easy option’; no need for washing or peeling and rice can be stored indefinetly (compared to potatoes that IMMEDIATELY turn black and slimy when stored in the fridge). Not any more. The trouble of washing potatoes is nothing compared to the pain of washing the rice and drying it up before proceeding to the (addmittedly very easy) task of cooking it in the rice cooker.
In all, it is not so weird here at all. I feel sorry for folks who have dreamed of the great Rising Sun and of the possibility to see it for their own eyes – so much of disappointment upon seeing it in the end. Not differently from any other country, you got to work, you shop for food and clothes, you spend time in front of TV or the Firefox. The salaries are wider, girls leaner and beef contains more fat; technotoys are plentiful as well as temples but in the end, unless you’re a serious enthusiast of either of them, they won’t keep you happily occupied for very long. At the end of the day, you’re as empty inside as you would be anywhere in the world.
I like this country. I develop these warm feelings to these islands particularly while travelling by train, looking at the desolate landscape of railroad tracks and backyards of small houses. They do not look pretty in any way I could define; still like it. Even though this country can never be a home for me or more or less anyone with a face as un-japanese as mine.
But hey, I can not imagine a place to live that would be any more COOL than this.:D

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